Interview: Jeff Sherman
We sat down with Sherman to talk about his history, his endeavors and the future of Milwaukee.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Jeff Sherman?
First, thanks for the opportunity. Truly love what Koss stands for and it’s an honor to talk to the headphone leader that was born in my hometown.
I’m a greater Milwaukee boy, through and through. Grew up in tree-lined Wauwatosa (Tosa East High School grad) and have been moving East towards Lake Michigan even since. Passionate Marquette University grad (marketing/finance) and have an MBA from Cardinal Stritch as well.
My Dad spent most of his career in executive management at Goodwill Industries and my mom was a nurse. So, community building and servant leadership were learned from them, for sure.
Began my career in local politics at Milwaukee County, moved on to sports marketing working for Joe Sweeney at the Wisconsin Sports Authority, and then to advertising at Hoffman York. Then moved into lobbying, media and business development for two Milwaukee-area leaders Carl Mueller and Jeffrey Remsik. Great projects along the way, Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame, Miller Park, Downtown development, the Wisconsin Center, Wisconsin Club and much more.
Always had a Milwaukee chip on my shoulder, so these early career projects and life-long civic love helped fuel and jump start OnMilwaukee.
How did the idea of OnMilwaukee start?
Good segue, hey? Yep, since 1998 we’ve been packaging, promoting and protecting media and Milwaukee at OnMilwaukee. Media that moves, that’s the missions. One of my business partners, Andy Tarnoff, had the original idea - an online city guide - for OnMilwaukee … we met via a former boss, Carl Mueller, had a beer (it’s Milwaukee, after all) at the Nomad on Brady St., and the rest … well, is part of Milwaukee’s rich history.
We’ve grown, expanded and become the leading lifestyle and cultural news site in the country all while telling great stories, creating an in-house programmatic digital buying agency, founding a powerful young professionals group and helping businesses and organizations engage online. We have a great team of digital experts who really care about community and are never content with standing on the sidelines.
More on 20 years at OnMilwaukee here: onmilwaukee.com/news/articles/twenty-years-of-onmilwaukee.html
How did you get involved with Koss?
I’ve seemingly always been a fan. How can’t you be? The iconic creatives and changing I-43 billboard … and great sound that was built out of my current hometown, Shorewood right? I’ve alway been an evangelist for Milwaukee area brands and love that there are so many family based brands like Miller, Usinger’s, Kohl’s, Carmex (to name just a few) and - of course - Koss. I truly reconnected with Koss through Martin Moore their content developer. He has helped power a new, creative spirit for Koss and I’m honored to help play a small role. I love when people notice my Koss headphones.
What's your favorite thing about Milwaukee?
For me, my life ladder flows from faith to family and friends, then to community, Marquette and the Milwaukee Bucks. Yep, that’s my life in a nutshell.
No doubt I love Marquette and the Bucks, but it’s the creative, lack of pretense and odd, yet cool sense of community that are my favorite things about Milwaukee.
There’s a sense of fun here that is real and based in family - it’s awesome. And, our Downtown is simply one of the most up and coming places in the country. The restaurants, startups, media, Riverwalk, Summerfest, beer, Lake Michigan … OK, I’ll stop --- it’s hard to name one thing.
What can you tell us about ZYN?
ZYN is life!
ZYN’s a company that I’m a part of that’s a good-for-the-world brand that is the first-to-market with an innovative healthy beverage that is crafted from CURCUMIN, the main compound that is the source of Turmeric's health benefits.
The name is derived from the word "zyndagi" which means "life.” We’re on store shelves and in corporate cafeterias all over with four flavors: lemon-ginger, mixed berry, mango lychee and pomegranate cranberry.
Truly thankful to be a part of the ZYN team that was founded by passionate leaders and founders, Asim and Qasim Khan. We’re building a brand in ZYN that aspires to being an ethically, socially and environmentally responsible. Currently, we are MBE certified and have pending status as a B-Corp, a status reserved for for-profit businesses who maintain rigorous levels of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
It tastes great too, you’ll love it.
If you weren't doing all the things you're doing now, what would you be doing?
Clearly I’d be in the NBA. (laughs) Love the question, but I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to and really the only thing that I want to do differently is do more and have greater impact, and make sure I’m always growing and reinventing. I’ll name drop here, but in an interview recently Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told me this when I asked him to define success - “Success has to bring you a sense of satisfaction; it has to fill you up. If achieving something only makes you hungry for more, that's not success, it's an addiction. You're never full.” I like that. Never full.
What has been your biggest triumph?
Easy answer is my wife and our kids, Jake (11) and Pierce (6). But, following the song in my heart to make Milwaukee even greater via OnMilwaukee, the young professionals group I helped co-found (now called Fuel Milwaukee), and the many awesome people, boards and groups that I get to work with … that’s triumph. Nobody gives you the right to stand on the sidelines so I’ve been blessed to be involved and dive in to many amazing projects through the years. That’s triumph too!
What has been your biggest tribulation?
Hmmm. I always like to ask people to define success. And, a few have used Churchill’s quote, - “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I like that. We’ve all failed a lot, I’ve gotten fired, made some wrong calls and run several losing political campaigns … but, they’ve all helped me to get stronger and smarter. Onward and upward, as I always say.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
My grandfather, my Dad’s Dad, was a buffalo farmer in Iowa. So, I always have to order the buffalo burger when it’s on a menu. You should too.
Where do you see Milwaukee in 5 years, 10 years and 20 years?
Constant change, for sure.
A city is only as good as the stories it tells, and Milwaukee is finally telling its innovation and progress story. In the very near future, many are saying that it won’t be the big cities eating the small, rather the fast ones pushing out the slow … so, greater Milwaukee has to run faster and keep collaborating, growing and getting out of our comfort zone.
The coasts are looking to the Midwest for authenticity and ideas, and Milwaukee’s well positioned to become a true leader in many ways: technology, water, sports, community building, media, urban development and much more. Onward and always On Milwaukee!